Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mea Culpa: Take MCMXIV

My god, it's been weeks since any post of the form "forget what I just said because it's totally wrong."

Already two musicologists have informed me that musicologists really aren't opposed to cuts, although one of them admits that Phillip Gossett, the grand inquisitor of Verdiana, does indeed hate all cuts. It seems it is in fact a certain kind of opera queen, not musicologist, I'm thinking of, that gets huffy if you cut ten bars of Die Frau Ohne Schatten or do the wrong damn version of Boris G, the edition from last June instead of last August.

Okay, must go spend some time thinking up new things to be wrong about. All those mistakes out there aren't gonna make themselves, you know.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't think Phil Gossett hates all cuts. He's all for certain cuts in places in his new book (which should be read).

He just gets very angry in the way that only he can about bad cuts.

Maury D'annato said...

Wait, what are you doing commenting here instead of telling me what you thought of Don Carlo!! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm working that out for myself, and...okay, I'll try to type it out by tonight. :)

I want to see it again because I'm not always sure whether it's me projecting into the performances and also being blown away by the 100% concentrated awesome that DC is for me. Warning: it's my favorite Verdi opera and I love every bit of it, so that's going to bias my take on things.

Maury D'annato said...

Oh no, I've managed to piss all over the Verdi opera lots and lots of people (most of them smarter than me) adore. I honestly thought I liked it better going in than I did coming out. Maybe it was the production?

JSU said...

It was the performance. The production was fantastic with Villa and Radvanovsky, or even Villa and Villaroel (there's a joke in there somewhere, but I'm missing it).

Maury D'annato said...

Yeah, I just got done reading your review. I'd love to have heard Radvanovsky, though I liked Racette a lot. And, well, I'd love to have heard Urmana.

meretrice i. d'oscena said...

Has Urmana done both leading ladies?
I think I would opt for Eboli if I were her, because I don't care who gets the last word; unless you are a totally kick-ass Elisabeth, everyone will be talking about a good Eboli.
I'm assuming that one criterion for being a good Eboli is not face-planting during the Veil Song. God knows it has been the undoing of some otherwise great singers.

I say no cuts in DC, and if Verdi had expanded the parts of the interesting characters with more of Schiller's text, it could be given over two nights, like a mini Verdi Ring Cycle.
I wish Verdi had set the whole of 'Othello' and we could have a multi-evening 'Otello' Cycle.

Paul said...

Cuts in opera have existed ever since there were operas. I think there should be a distinction, however, between excisions crafted by the composer (who may have realized that some stuff he wrote just didn't work) and those devised by stage butchers who either (a) have disdain for an audience's attention span, (b) feel compelled to put their own stamp on a production, (c) go along with "standard" cuts just because everyone else does them, or (d) dislike the piece and simply want to hear less of it.

As a lover of Meyerbeer's operas - yes, they're long and yes, even he made cuts and alterations up until the very hour of debut. But how many people would enjoy "Moby Dick" or some other popular classic if the publisher decided to snip a few random chapters here and there, and only because they thought the novel was too long?

Worst personally witnessed cut ever: A decade or so ago Opera Colorado did a "Lucia" where the Wolf's Crag scene was dropped. The section is very dramatic, and the tenor-baritone duet may be one of the best that Donizetti ever composed. Half a year later I bumped into director Nate Merrill at the regional Met auditions, asking him point-blank why he'd removed it. His reply? "Oh, everyone cuts that and, besides, it's really just a way for the lighting designer to show off [because of the storm scene around which the music revolves]."


Maury D'annato said...

I'm going to play devil's advocate for a minute, Paul. Let's say I'm fine with people futzing with things. (I'm tempted to say I am, in fact, but it I haven't really thought it through.) Perhaps performance is always collaborative, and there will be good collaborations and bad collaborations, but in principle, maybe there's no sacred text that shouldn't be messed with.

Anonymous said...

After having just "finished" the Gossett book Divas and Scholars (is that the new one you're referring to Straussmonster? -- also hi again!), I think his biggest issue with cuts is not whether or not to do them, but being transparent about what is going on.

He makes a point about these 18th century works being in the public domain, and the resulting lack of moral imperative to "honor" them to the letter. Rather, he hones in on how companies present the performing editions that they use. (For instance, he criticizes the term "traditional cuts" that he traces to [not originally] Serafin as being misleading, as such "traditions" are relatively new and not grounded in 18th century performing practice. Gossett also mentions a case [I have forgotten the specifics] of a company passing off their production edition as once sanctioned by Rossini when there is little to no evidence supporting such a claim.) He then, of course, shares his opinions of various types of cuts, careful to emphasize that the greatest determinant occurs in performance impact.

So, to condense Gossett's approach so far as I understand it: companies should be honest about what they are presenting and the bottom line is the impact the production has on the audience.

Anonymous said...

Yes--that's the book! I was a student of his at some indeterminate time *cough*, and we've been waiting for the book for some time. It's lovely, isn't it?